I am proud of Labour’s record on LGBT equality. We believe to our core that everyone is equal. In government we achieved great things for the LGBT community and took real steps to ensure that LGBT equality became a reality. This can happen again.
If I am elected as the Leader of our party I will be a warrior for equality. There is still plenty more to do. With me as leader, the Labour party will:
- Tackle the discrimination that holds LGBT people back
- Call for an education free from homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
- Support marriage equality in Northern Ireland
- Make Britain show leadership on LGBT rights around the world
- Ensure that everyone is able to access health services that fit their needs
- Take steps to create a fairer and more diverse representation of the LGBT community in public life
I will personally help LGBT Labour fundraise for the Chris Smith List and I applaud the way it helps women, bi, trans* and BAME candidates standing for our party the most. I am proud to be supported by shadow equalities minister Gloria De Piero and open LGBT MPs, including Stephen Twigg, Stephen Doughty, Steve Reed, Peter Kyle and Wes Streeting.
We must never compromise in our struggle for equality at home and around the world. Labour must stand up for those who are persecuted and discriminated against, and as your leader that is exactly what I intend to do.
As a leading member of the Labour party, how have you contributed to furthering LGBT equality? What advancements in LGBT rights have you supported which you are most proud of and why?
Since before I was a politician, I’ve always pushed for equality: for women, LGBT people, and those with different ethnic or religious backgrounds. I have always believed that your life chances should never be determined by where you were born, what your parents did, your gender, sexuality or the colour of your skin.
My commitment to equality is a core part of my politics; it is why I want to be in public life. I joined the Labour party after the 1992 defeat. Without a Labour majority we weren’t able to equalise the age of consent. It took a Labour government for it to become equal. This was just one of a raft of changes made between 1997 and 2010. We changed the law and moved public opinion. That’s the difference this party can make when we win elections.
From being an employer to special advisor in the Department for Health and MP I have listened to LGBT campaigners and joined them in the fight for a more equal Britain. I regret that the equal marriage vote was a free vote and wish that Labour had voted for it as a party, as we had civil partnerships years before. Thanks to the good conscience of Labour MPs we passed a law that Cameron couldn’t convince his own side of.
I will never waiver in my support of LGBT equality. I have worked in the Department for Health on better services for LGBT people and as the shadow care minister for better provision for older LGBT people, especially those accessing care and fighting to retain their independence.
As leader what will you do to ensure legal recognition and improved rights protection for trans* and non-binary people?
It has been over a decade since the Gender Recognition Act was passed into law, and lots has changed in this time. Civil partnerships, the Equalities Act, equal marriage. Trans* citizens in Scotland and the rest of the UK have different rights - this cannot be right. It is time there the government undertook a review of the gender identity law and wider policy environment.
With me as leader, Labour’s front bench – with the support of LGBT Labour – will work with the trans* community to improve access to gender care services. People deserve dignity in all stages of life, while accessing public services and health care and during retirement or any care they might need. Services must be open to diversity and responsive to diverse needs.
LGBT rights around the world
The world is increasingly dividing into two halves on LGBT rights. More and more countries are improving their LGBT protections and legal rights. However many countries with poor LGBT rights records are introducing laws that persecute LGBT people. How would you ensure the UK protects LGBT rights around the world?
The victories won in 1967 (decriminalisation) or 2015 (equal marriage) will not be complete until same sex couples can do all those simple things that those of us who are straight take for granted: to walk down the street with the person we love, to kiss one another, to be your own true self without fear of abuse or attack. We cannot pass laws to end prejudice. But we can – and must – do all we can to protect those who suffer from it.
This responsibility extends beyond our shores. Being gay is illegal in 78 countries across the world and being a lesbian is illegal in 49. In five countries same-sex sexual activity carries the death penalty. Within our own Commonwealth homosexuality is a criminal offence in 41 out of 53 countries. This hate must stop and as the current Stonewall campaign says, none of us should be bystanders.
One of Ed Miliband’s achievements was bringing Labour’s voice to the global debate for LGBT equality. Not just that, he showed his willingness to combat discrimination head on when he pledged to appoint Michael Cashman as our global ambassador on LGBT rights.
I know Michael will do much of this work anyway – which is why he is so right for this role – but as Labour’s leader I will make sure he has the full weight of our whole party behind him. With sister parties in the Socialist and Democrats group across Europe we can amplify his voice further still alongside others like President Obama’s recently appointed US State Department envoy, Randy Berry. In any government I lead, Michael Cashman will have the machinery of government at his disposal in his mission.
Many LGBT young people experience bullying, discrimination and a curriculum which doesn’t meet their needs. How would you ensure we have an education system which support LGBT young people? Would you ensure sex and relationship education for all children in all schools? Would you change current exemptions to equality legislation in schools?
Education should be there to give kids the choices and the chances to achieve their potential regardless of gender, sexuality or the colour of their skin. Schools can do this actively and our curriculum should celebrate the great work of LGBT people like Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Britten, Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing, Maureen Colquhuon – the little known Labour MP and first ‘out’ parliamentarian. Their achievements and identity should be taught in core subjects from maths to music. The Equalities Act places a duty to promote equality on all publicly funded schools; there are and should be no exceptions.
Schools must have no tolerance for bullying of any kind. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying can have such pernicious effects. Too many turn a blind eye but this is not good enough. Local authorities and individual schools should have publicly available anti-bullying policies. They should be regularly consulted with formal inputs from pupils – ideally through student voice forums like School Councils – and parents.
All schools including private, faith academy and free schools should be teaching age-appropriate sex education to all young people so they have the knowledge and power to decide what they do with their bodies, this should include LGBT sex education. Schools should try to confront taboos. Long-overdue changes to the law should be made to reflect this and be clear it is compulsory.
Schools and educational institutions should be as good an employer of LGBT people as they are providers of equal education. The law needs to change in a number of areas to reflect this. LGBT people should be able to be ‘out’ at work and confident in a learning environment. Exemptions for any types of schools in not acceptable and I will press for this to change – compromises of the past are not right today, if ever at all.
Immigration and asylum
How would you protect LGBT asylum seekers, ensuring that they are treated fairly and with dignity?
The horror stories I hear about how our border agencies treat LGBT men and women are not acceptable. We must ensure our asylum procedures are fair to people fleeing persecution based on sexuality or gender identity, that the services are there for people and discriminatory practices are removed.
Britain has long been a haven for those escaping human rights abuses. This must continue. Equally, by setting an example to the world about how LGBT citizens should be treated, we set standards and show another way is possible.
How would you tackle the growing divide in equality for LGBT communities in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK?
This year’s Irish referendum was a joyous moment for all of us who seek love, justice and human rights available to all and equal to all. The Irish public voted in huge numbers to bring about a seismic change in our closest neighbour’s constitution. For those of us watching in Britain, the sense something momentous was happening came well before the result, as we watched thousands of Irish residents in Britain making the effort to travel home to vote for equal marriage.
Regrettably, Northern Ireland remains the one place on these islands where you cannot marry the person you love. I want to see equal marriage in Northern Ireland. I do hope politicians in Northern Ireland go with the views of the public and listen to the really strong campaigners on this issue.
I want to see action taken on it. I believe that if you’re Prime Minister and believe in equal rights, then you want those equal rights in all of the devolved nations, and that is certainly what I’d champion.
One of the best vehicles for ensuring equality for all is the Human Rights Act. I will defend the HRA in Parliament and the country at large. I will push the leaders of all parties and communities in Northern Ireland on these issues when we meet, and my front bench will do the same.
What action would you take to support LGBT Labour and LGBT people within the party? How would you ensure increased numbers of LGBT people are selected to represent the party at all levels? Do you agree there should be a reserved space for LGBT Labour and Disability Labour on the NEC?
The Labour party at its best as the party of equality but will only remain this way if we work hard for it and continue to be ahead of the curve.
When I stand for prime minister I want my team of MPs to reflect Britain’s diverse communities. I want this to be the case in our devolved institutions too. As leader I will send a clear signal to local parties to select people from all backgrounds, work environments and, importantly, this will include visible representation from the LGBT community. I will personally help LGBT Labour fundraise for the Chris Smith List and I applaud the way it helps women, bi, trans* and BAME candidates the most. I will work with the NEC to ensure that intolerance in selections is not tolerated in the party. Behaviour unacceptable – because of hard won changes to the law campaigned for by our party and the trade union movement – in job recruitment has not been sufficiently challenged in our selection processes. This cannot continue.
LGBT people in political parties have been subject to unacceptable behaviours, and this will be worse for LBT women. I will have a trusted complaints procedure in our party and work with the Speaker of the House of Commons to have better processes in our Parliament.
I would like to see LGBT Labour and Disability Labour on the NEC. As the top table of the party it should have all voices represented and be in a place to help us speak for Britain.